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Standing out in a crowd: Wills leads Briarwood on the field and in the classroom

It was supposed to be a simple game of powder puff football to celebrate Briarwood's homecoming. But chasing down a runner on the sideline, Anne Wills finished the play in a multi-player heap.

Anne_Wills002.jpg

Anne Wills throws from her knees during a softball game.

So much for flag football.

"Anne is that kind of special child that only comes along once in a while that has got some kind of inner fire burning in them that whatever she does, whether it's in the classroom or whether it's softball or basketball or if she's playing Tiddlywinks she's got that desire to put all she's got in it," Briarwood Softball Coach Robert Waller said. "Anne is the kind of kid that not only makes her fellow players better, she makes the coaches better."

Too bad the Georgia Independent School Association doesn't have a Tiddlywinks competition. Anne would probably have another state championship or MVP award under her belt.

That competitive nature inside Anne made sure her athletic career began earlier than anyone expected.

Coach Waller knew he had a star on his hands when Anne was in sixth grade. She stepped onto the field for the first time as a Lady Buc, and he said she would be one of the best to ever play the game for her school.

And she didn't disappoint. Anne finished her career with GISA All-State honors in softball during each of her final three years of high school, and she was a key component of two state runner-up teams.

"We've always told them that hard work coupled with discipline will breed success," said Anne's mother Lucy Wills. "She just has a work ethic, and she wants to succeed at whatever she does....You can't just show up for the sports if you really want to succeed. You've got to do a little bit more."

The scary thing is softball isn't even her best sport. Scary for opponents maybe, but her teammates on the basketball court were more than grateful.

Anne earned a starting spot on the varsity squad midway through eighth grade. She scored her 1,000th point in basketball during her sophomore year, and she is closing in on the school record in points.

"As far as a basketball player, she's probably one of the best I've ever coached," said Lady Bucs Basketball Coach Clayton Parish. "She's solid in all aspects of the game, terrific scorer; she plays real good defense, handles the ball really well.

"I think one of her best attributes is her will to win is so strong she's willing to do just about anything to have her team be successful. That's something that you don't get to see that often."

Anne has state titles in doubles tennis and in multiple track and field events, but a team title has evaded Anne during her varsity career -- something that will always get under her skin.

"She's won so many individual honors, she would gladly trade every single one of them for one state championship," Coach Parish said.

So why the assortment of sports? Anne enjoys making herself better -- at anything and everything.

"I don't like doing the same thing all year long," she said. "I like the different sports, and every sport has something different to offer and a different challenge."

Anne is an athlete fueled by family. She recalls throwing the football around with her father and brother in the yard as soon as she was able to stand.

She even admits competition between her and her brother Bob -- a star athlete in nearly every sport at Briarwood until he graduated last year -- was part of her drive for excellence.

"It was great to beat him when we'd always play in the yard," Anne said. "We'd always be really competitive."

It wasn't all rivalry though. Bob is thrilled about his sister's accomplishments. And as far as he is concerned, it was no competition.

"The awards she's won, she's sort of got the upper hand with that," Bob said. "Competition-wise, we talk back and forth just kidding around, but when she's awarded, she's worked hard for it; she's accomplished it, and I'm proud of her.... I guess if I do something, she's always wanting to be able to do it and do it that much better."

Aside from the athletic accolades, Anne is a genuine star in the classroom as well. Her strive-for-the-best mentality has her at the top of her class.

According to Karen Hawes, one of her teachers, Anne should be the valedictorian of her senior class. She was even recognized recently as the Channel 6 Scholar Athlete of the week.

Anne and Bob both hope to follow in their father's footsteps and become doctors. Anne will probably even try to be the best doctor in the family. But her explanation of her academic ability is simple: sports are extra; school is a requirement.

"Well, you have to do the academics," Anne said. "I was just brought up that way. My parents really didn't like Bs or anything, and that just developed into me wanting to do it for myself."

In the world of high-dollar sports, the term "scholar-athlete" gets applied to almost any kid who scrapes by with a passing grade while dominating on the football field. But in this case, most feel that it couldn't be more appropriate.

"She puts in lots and lots of hours on the basketball court, and then for her to be able to maintain an A average in her classes just shows she uses her time extremely well," Coach Parish said.

As if being the best at every sport and in the classroom wasn't tiring enough, Anne finds time to have friends as well. And the cool thing is they don't hate her for having it all.

To prove it, she was voted Briarwood's homecoming queen this year.

"She doesn't have the type of personality that makes other kids jealous," Mrs. Hawes said. "She's very self-effacing."

"She's one of the most considerate people you'll ever meet," Coach Waller said. "She's a child of privilege also. Her dad's a surgeon, but you would never know that. ...That's what I'll miss more than anything, Anne Wills the person."

Look out Sewannee. Anne hopes to take her winning combination of brains, brawn and benevolence to college where she plans on playing basketball. But whatever she does, everyone agrees, she will do it quietly -- and well.

"She doesn't want to be in the limelight, even though she has been," Mrs. Wills said. "That's not something that she works to do. She just works to do her best."



Web posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004


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